I want to start off by saying, I wanted to make Alberta my town. I was slowly starting to seep away from the campus life I had been living for the four years I was in school and two years of working on campus. I started doing my grocery shopping in Alberta City, took Lola to the vet in Alberta City, ordered my Chinese Takeout and got gas in Alberta City. My drive home took me right over the bridge to the comforting sight of Alberta Baptist, Alberta Carwash, and the pretty old-world street lanterns along the road. I wanted to make Alberta my town.
The drive home now is still jarring. There are no lights save the tall, spindly security lights set up far in the distance at the police station and disaster relief set-up at the Save-A-Lot. Drive through the neighborhood at night and you can't see where you're going at all. I've missed the turn to my house twice since I moved back home. You think you're looking at a tree by the side of the road, but it's the front steps of a house. There is an overturned car on top of a couch with that frightening yellow X painted on it. Your headlights pass over what looks like piles of dirt in the total darkness of nighttime, and when the sunrises you realize it's a house, a church, a crushed pickup truck.
Ghosts don't live in haunted houses and they aren't translucent silver and moaning through hallways and lonely campsites. Ghosts are in spray-painted X's on every house in your neighborhood, which only mean that no bodies were found there, it doesn't mean no one died. Ghosts are looters you hear picking up wood and metal and breaking glass. Ghosts are the empty frames of houses that held families that held hearts that held memories. Ghosts are two teenage kids spray painting "We love you MawMaw and PawPaw" on the only piece left of their grandparent's house, the front door. That house is a few blocks from me, MawMaw and PawPaw died there. Even though that god damn X says zero. Those god damn X's are liars. They're the worst ghosts I've seen.
I know I should be happy to be back in my home, but every way I turn or drive I have to see it. My whole back yard is nothing but mud now since the tree got pulled up so everything inside is covered in red Alabama clay- including Lola, who looks faintly orange all the time. Every road between me and the outside world drives through destitution and loss. There's no way out, but through.
So even though I'm home, I'm disappointed. I'm weighed-down. Going to work every day is harder, running out the door and seeing that line of sight so drastically different than it was when I moved here last August. I know the storm didn't take my house, but it definitely took my home. This place feels different to me now, darker. Almost all of my neighborhood is gone, and that fat knowledge of death is on every street for the 2.4 miles between me and my job.
I know that we're all still here on Kicker Rd, happy to have our houses. But the truth is, no one lives here anymore.